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Society & Stories

Why you might find salt in your coffee

Şeyda Explains

Salt in a coffee? Does it taste good? Sadly not! Şeyda explains why everyone who wants to get married should drink this drink regardless.

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It always begins with the words: “Allah’ın emri, Peygamberin kavliyle kızınızı oğlumuza istiyoruz.”
In English: “With God’s command and the consent of the Prophet, we want your daughter for our son.”

Tense and as if sitting on glowing coals, the eyes of everyone present were now fixed on my father, who was relishing the moment and whose answer we were awaiting. At first he slowly placed his right leg over his left, looked into all the curious faces and took a large sip of Turkish coffee, which tasted strong to him, and – as was expected – said:

“Kısmetse olur.“ – “If fate sees it so, it will come true.”

This is just the preliminary remark, in order to make it clear that the salty coffee is part of a traditional process. The talk is part of the courtship (Turkish: “kız istemek”).

Once in a lifetime, every Turk who wants to get married (Turkish: “damat adayı”) has to go through with this whether they want to or not.

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Damat: In English, son-in-law, groom

It is an event involving the small family circle, full of tension and nervous conversation. The parents of the couple get to know each other for the first time, chat about the weather and try to find common ground. Nevertheless, both parties are usually tormented by these ritual conversations. The future bride (Turkish: “gelin adayı”) has the enjoyable task of making the Turkish coffee.

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Most people boil the coffee with the help of electrical appliances, but I still prefer the slow boil of the coffee. For all those present, coffee cups are placed on a tray decorated with ornaments in a particular arrangement. The future bride secretly puts salt into ones of the cups and places it at the back so it can be safely left for a certain person.

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“Don’t make a face!”

First, the eldest members of the family take a cup of coffee. The last cup remains for the youngest since the special mixture is reserved for him. There are grins on all the faces in the room. This is because everyone knows that he has to drink this terribly salty coffee without blinking. In this way he proves that he will love his future wife above all else, and that he will stand by her on bad days and he is even prepared to drink poison from her hand.

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“Finished!”

After this unpalatable proof of his love, the next hurdle has to be overcome. The father of the groom formulates the important words for the courtship, and everyone waits for the answer from the father of the young woman.

“Kısmet” (En. Fate) was the code word for me to begin serving the biscuits the guests hat brought, and break the ice. My father said:

“Tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım.” – “Let’s eat something sweet and talk sweetly.”

In fact, the conversation became more relaxed. Now they started to discuss how the couple met, where they wanted to live in the future and when the wedding might take place. Financial matters are also discussed at this point.

In the past, and unfortunately still now in some areas of Turkey, the father of the girl demands a fixed sum of gold and additional land or cattle as a release for his daughter. After the two fathers have settled the financial affairs, they discuss whether the future bridegroom will be able to provide for his family. What work does he do? How much does he earn each month? But these questions are no longer asked nowadays because the daughter usually works, too.

Although this Turkish tradition of courtship is unpleasant for both families, it is, despite its salty component, a joyous experience that is not easily forgotten.

Credits
Title image: Shutterstock & Danny Schuster

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